Sept. 11: The Day America Changed



It has always seemed to me that the English language needs another word for "anniversary" when the event being recognized is not a happy one.

"The anniversary of Pearl Harbor," or "The anniversary of John Lennon's death," for example, never made sense to me. An anniversary is something you celebrate. Pearl Harbor and John Lennon's death are events to mourn.


Alan Ammann's fifth-grade class at Julia Randall Elementary School led by a flag-waving Tyler Maclanahan will join the rest of the area's schools in remembering Sept. 11 by wearing red, white and blue.

Obviously, the same goes for "the first anniversary of the deadliest attack on American soil." No matter how many times you see it in print or hear it on television, it just doesn't sound right.

That's why I think the American Legion got it right when they came up with a name for their upcoming, coast-to-coast observance of Sept. 11, which will unfold right here in Payson, too. It's called, simply, "We Remember" and we certainly do.

But then, of course, it would be impossible to forget. Our year-old memories still seem to evolve into new emotions on a daily basis. The war on terrorism that sprang from that horrific day continues. American lives continue to be lost in Afghanistan in pursuit of Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaida terrorist network. More deaths are certain. More attacks at home are certain.

These are not the characteristics of a day that's likely to slip the national mind.

As we approach Sept. 11, 2002, it's pretty easy to guess how the day will be remembered by the media. There will be wall-to-wall re-creations, analyses, investigations, timelines, remembrances fraught with emotion and, in general, wretched excess.

But what it should be, of course, is a day of quiet solemnity. A day not remembered with overkill, but with a reserved approach precisely in the way American Legion Post 69 has planned for Payson and the Rim country.

And everyone in the Rim country is responding in kind.

"It's all falling into place," said event organizer Lee Pretsch. "People are wanting to be a part of the program and to get involved. I had a call from the Mesa del fire department, and they said, 'If we polish up our fire truck, could we be in the procession?' I said absolutely, because it's going to be a community thing."

During a recent trip to Show Low, Pretsch stopped in Christopher Creek and the Heber-Overgaard area to extend invitations. "Both are going to send representatives to the event," Pretsch said. "This is becoming a mountain thing instead of just a Payson thing, and that is wonderful.

"This event will not only honor those who have died, but also those who live and continue to fight for the freedom of this great nation," she said. "As a nation united, we must remain committed to supporting the men and women of our armed forces as they serve with honor and courage. Everyone in the Rim country is invited to join together in this uniting ceremony."

September 11, 2002

5:45 a.m. to 7 a.m. The observance will begin in the early morning of Wednesday, Sept. 11, when every Payson patrol car and fire engine will sound their sirens for 15 seconds. The sirens will commemorate the crash of American Airlines Flight 11 into the north tower of the World Trade Center (5:45 a.m. local time), United Airlines Flight 175 into the south tower of the World Trade Center (6:03 a.m.), American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon (6:43 a.m.) and United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed into a field about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh (7 a.m.) after the hijackers were apparently overtaken by passengers.

Noon A procession of the town's law enforcement and emergency vehicles will begin at Payson's Town Hall and wind its way down the Beeline Highway and west on Main Street to Green Valley Park.

1 p.m. At Green Valley Park, a crane will raise the American flag as the national anthem is being played, and the ceremony will begin. Master of ceremonies Randy Roberson, will introduce the guest speakers: Payson Mayor Ken Murphy, Payson Fire Chief John Ross and Payson Police Chief Gordon Gartner.

Following will be a color guard presentation by the Civil Air Patrol Squadron 209 Cadets of Payson, and performances by the Payson High School Band and Honor Choir, the Payson Choral Society, a bell choir, bagpipe musician Eric Landau, and bugler Gil Gifford.

All attendees will receive a miniature American flag courtesy of the American Legion, and the first 1,000 who show up will be given a poppy with a black ribbon inscribed "Sept. 11, 2001 We Remember" from the Payson Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9829.

5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. A public prayer vigil will be held in Green Valley Park. Mayor Ken Murphy will offer welcoming remarks; local firefighters, law enforcement, military and clergy will participate; and Mary Goddard, the proud mother of a Marine, will officiate. A large turnout is expected, so it might be wise to plan to arrive early.

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